Updated February 18, 2022 - 9:46 am
WASHINGTON — Rep. Dina Titus took the first legislative step Thursday to establish another national monument in Southern Nevada with a bill that calls for protection of 450,000 acres near Laughlin and Searchlight.
The legislation calls for the designation of Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, which would provide greater federal protection of biologically diverse and culturally significant lands in the Mojave Desert.
Titus, D-Nev., rolled out her legislation on Thursday after filing it in the House. She also has enlisted the support of the Biden administration and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a Jan. 12 letter announcing her intentions to seek a national monument designation.
The Avi Kwa Ame, or Spirit Mountain area, Titus said, “features scenic peaks and canyons, natural springs, Joshua tree forests, bighorn migration routes, unique grasslands, and a rich history of petroglyphs and other ancient cultural sites.”
“The entire area is considered sacred by 10 Yuman-speaking tribes as well as the Hopi and Chemehuevi Paiute,” Titus told Haaland, the first Native American to serve as interior secretary.
The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and other native American tribes and groups have supported efforts to create a national monument in the region, with conservation, environmental and outdoor recreation groups.
Clark County commissioners voted this week to urge the Biden administration and Congress to establish a national monument. The Nevada Legislature, as well as Boulder City, Laughlin and Searchlight, officially support a designation.
Titus filed the bill while the House was on a district work period. Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., also has said she would explore legislative avenues to protect the lands.
The Titus bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, and analysis will be conducted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to determine the cost to establish the national monument.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., is talking with groups interested in the Avi Kwa Ame designation.
Titus said she worked with Jon Raby, the Bureau of Land Management state director in Nevada, on an agency-produced map of the proposed monument boundaries, located between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the California state line.
Although there has been no organized opposition to a Avi Kwa Ame designation, energy companies have interests in the region where solar and wind power is generated.
The Heritage Foundation has argued in the past that national monument designations have become an abuse of the 1906 Antiquities Act by recent presidents to sanction public land grabs that reward special interests but result in economic hardship to local communities.
President Barack Obama designated Basin and Range and Gold Butte national monuments in Nevada during his term.
An attempt by President Donald Trump to trim the boundary of Gold Butte failed, but he was successful in shrinking Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.